The unwritten rules of commuting


Becky and I often wonder why people behave so oddly on our commutes and so we decided to suggest some rules for commuting … (with input from Charlie and Ruth on Twitter – Thanks!)

Bear in mind if you break them you almost certainly will be the subject to a Facebook status or a tweet.

General tips:

1. Be polite if possible

2. Remember we’re all in it together. Yes it is stressful but if you had to get up at six to do this chances are so did everyone else.

3. Follow your transport company on Twitter. They will give you the most up to date advice and some (Southern) are quite funny too.

4. Follow other commuters who make the same journey as you on Twitter.

5. Things WILL go wrong. It isn’t always the transport company’s fault. Remember this and be thankful they are trying to get you on your way.

6. When things go wrong (if it is offered) claim back your rail fare. If you aren’t sure ask.

All modes of transport

1. We do not want to hear your music. Especially if it is Westlife. Buy some decent headphones and turn the volume down.

2. If you are reading a newspaper try and keep it within your own seat area.

3. Don’t read a broadsheet on public transport (see above)

4. If you are having a text conversation turn your phone to silent.

5. If you decided (stupidly) to travel in rush hour with a child put them on your lap or make several children share seats.

The platform:

1. People have their own spots and you must take this into consideration when new to a platform. If you are new to this, hang around at the back of platform, assess the space and get on the train last.

2. If you are the last one to arrive at the platform DO NOT try and push on the train before the people who have been waiting there before you.

3. If it is an overground or mainline train you are required to press the button to open the door. The person who does this should get on the train first – after all you wouldn’t be getting on the train so quickly without them.

4. Let people off the train first (come on, this is common sense but some people choose to ignore this)

Image by MichelKuik via Flickr

On the (overground/mainline) train:

1. When you get on the train don’t block the aisle whilst taking five minutes to take your coat off, neatly fold it and place it in the overhead shelf. Then another 5 minutes to unpack your belongings neatly in front of you. See all those people in a line glaring at you when there are empty seats? YOU ARE CAUSING THAT QUEUE. (Same applies with prolonged getting off the train).

2. If there is a spare seat next to the window don’t be a plonker and sit on the aisle seat. It’s annoying for all involved; someone has to ask to sit down, you have to move to let them in, you then have to sit down again. Certainly don’t sigh when someone asks to sit in the window seat. (Caveat: sit in the aisle seat if you are very tall or if you are only going one stop as this may be less disruptive – but still don’t moan when people want to sit in the window seat).

3. If you are sitting in the aisle seat you don’t take all the middle arm rest – you have plenty of space in the aisle. Don’t be greedy.

4. A key one – don’t invade others space – you paid for one ticket, you only get one seat.

5. Your case does not deserve a seat. It is grubby and seats are for people. If you are worried about it stand with it.

6. Don’t argue with loved ones on the phone – its embarrassing for all involved. Especially for you when you realise everyone is giggling and gossiping about you. (Same applies with flirting).

7. Don’t spread confidential papers across the table or make confidential phone calls. I know a lot about court cases, CVs, disciplinary actions, deals and planned take overs from the train.

8. Staring at the people who got on further down the line and therefore have seats will not make them get up and let you have the seat.

Description: F Train, Manhattan-bound, 17 May ...
Image via Wikipedia

Tube trains:

1. Same platform rules apply for regular commuters.

2. Personal hygiene – now this is an important one; take note. Tubes get very hot when crowded and even more so in summer. Do not reach up to hold onto bars if you suspect there is any chance of a slight smell of sweat patch.

3. For us space efficient people out there this is the worse possible thing. I would rather you tried your best to balance and occasionally fall over rather than be unhygienic.

4. If you feel unwell – get off the bloody train. No-one wants to be the one who holds up the entire underground line whilst they remove you off the train.

5. Please bring odd items on the tube – it creates great amusement for us other passengers. Did you know there is a twitter account and website dedicated to you people?!

6. When travelling on any mode of transport hold on (remembering an earlier rule). You know what happens to those who don’t. You fall over that’s what. You travel everyday – you know this happens.


1. Stand to the bloody right!! That’s all I have to say on the matter!

Wheely suitcases:

1. If you have one – wheel it properly. It’s not hard. Oh and think about where you stop. Stopping dead in the middle of the station or platform isn’t the best idea in the world!

2.If you are a regular wheely suitcase user – invest in a four wheel one.

3. Do not wheel it off escalators – it never works and it always ends up wheeling out of control. I’m thinking of you here – people WILL tut!!

4. Your wheely suitcase is behind you. Do not forget this as you wheel it over peoples toes.

Remember the words of Lao-Tzu “A good traveller has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.”

Other Useful Posts / Links:

Thanks again to the wonderful Becky Hill for her great work on her first guest / co-authored post!


Following publication of this post we have had several additions suggested (if you have more please feel free to comment):

1. If you block the door don’t get funny when people want to get off.

2. When using a laptop that doesn’t mean you can take up the whole table.

3. Don’t tap your laptop keys loudly (buy and iPad and this is no longer a problem)

4. I  had one guy hang his coat on the hook by the window seat..I was sitting there! Coat in my face for entire journey, not happy!!

5. When standing in the aisle take off your rucksack, don’t bash me in the face with it!  < This happens a lot. Several people suggested it

6. When you are on the train toVictoria DO NOT stand up ready to get off as soon as you pass Clapham Junction – you have 5 minutes.

7. If you are in the aisle seat don’t wait until you are at the destination to pack up your belongings. Especially if the person in the window seat has their coat, hat, scarf and gloves on.

8. Don’t stretch your legs out under the table if someone is sitting opposite you.

9. On the bus DO NOT sit on someone < apparently this happens

10. On the bus (and there is room) if you get on do not stop in the aisle move on or upstairs.

11. If you don’t have a book / newspaper / iPad/ computer / phone /other form of entertainment staring at the person opposite is not ok.

12. Don’t put your bag on the seat to stop people sitting there. We will ask you to move it even if there are empty seats.

13. Do not listen to music without headphones

14. When someone needs to get off the bus and you are on the aisle, twisting yourself slightly to allow them off will not do. Step up and let them off. Chances are neither of you are slim enough to allow this manoeuvre to work.

15. Don’t take someone’s Metro (or other newspaper) until at least 10 seconds have passed since they have put it down and generally it is polite to ask “Have you finished with that?”

It was also pointed out that people who can’t read the sign to stand on the right on the escalator probably won’t read this but here’s hoping a bit of politeness may come to commuting … a lot of people have the same annoynaces!

Feel free to add more to the comments!


Week 4 -Social Networking: Facebook #23thingscity

This is the first week where I’ve written one the “things” mine is the cool extra thing – Facebook. A week about social networking and Facebook is only a cool extra? I hear you ask. Well, it was felt we couldn’t ignore Facebook but we were also aware that some people have good reasons not to join and others wouldn’t want their work world venturing into their private/facebook world. So we have suggested people look at how other libraries have used Facebook. I am wondering what the thoughts will be …

Library and university presence on Facebook always makes me think back to Facebook’s early days and the theory that students didn’t want their studying life to intrude into their social space. They wanted to keep the two separate, logging on to VLEs for study and Facebook for fun. I am wondering how true this still is? 18 year old students today have been using Facebook/Bebo/Myspace for almost all their teenage years so are the divisions still there?

Interest in Facebook and formal university connections has existed since its beginning. Possibly because of its roots as a university communication network unlike MySpace and Bebo. Research from Nicole Ellison at Michigan State University in December 2007 suggested 79-95% of all undergraduates had Facebook accounts. I have no idea what today’s precentage would be but it probably is similar.

What I find interesting is why and how different people use Facebook. I use it a lot. I use it to keep in touch with friends and family near and far, I play scrabble on it (again with friends and family near and far), I arrange events with it and I have reconnected with friends from the past. I know people who have committed “facebook suicide” and I know people who have very strong privacy settings. I also know people who are far too open and seemingly live a virtual life at the expense of a real one. I think some of my friendships and connections have strengthened because of it but also sometimes you realise you have little in common with people beyond the setting you know them in.

I recently saw what can happen when people from different areas of your life collide on Facebook. I posted a link to a story connected with a close friend’s brother. I knew the whole story but the article didn’t tell it all (more here). Two friends ( ex- colleagues) then commented on it without much regard for the feelings of those involved. For a few hours I felt that I was in the crossfire of an argument with people feeling very hurt. I defended my friend and her brother but I didn’t remove what my other friends said because while I disagreed with them I do believe everybody’s entitled to an opinion. I hope my subsequent comments (if they read them properly) calmed things down properly and possibly informed them of the facts. It was a reminder that Facebook isn’t just a medium removed from real life but very much part of my life where people can reveal sides of themselves that make them seem a little less than I thought they were but also reminded me how strong my other friend is. This could have happened in a discussion in the pub but the record of the exchange remains on Facebook whereas in the pub nobody could keep going back over it.

Returning to the more professional aspects of Facebook. There was an article on the Guardian website which highlights the dificulties faced by universities in maintaining contact with students and controlling their image. Students can discuss courses, universities and even slag off the library’s fines. It seems that despite the early boundaries it is essential that all university libraries have a presence in social networks not least Facebook.

Looking through the pages I found for this week’s post it is clear students are interacting with the university presence on Facebook more than they used to. One post on the University of Sussex page shows the way that students are using Facebook to interact with their library:

Susex Facebook Post
Post from Sussex's Facebook

Previously this student would have had to find someone to complain about the heat but instead he could just post on the page. However the pages aren’t hugely popular. The British Library leads the field with 32,991 likes but Harvard lags well behind with a mere 110 (ironic as that is where Facebook started). Of the university libraries listed Brunel is the most popular with 1068 likes. It makes me wonder if the lack of interest is because students aren’t interested or if the pages aren’t interesting enough. Should we look at how companies use Facebook? I think we need a presence there because people look for us there but it needs to be interactive and not just because other people have done it.

Maybe Twitter is a more natural place for libraries to give out information? Orkney Libraries have only 837 likes on Facebook but on Twitter they have a big following of 3278. I can’t instantly explain why this is.

Social vs Professional – are they mutually exclusive?

One of the most popular discussions coming from our 23 things programme is whether people want to keep their professional and personal lives separate and what the point of blogs are. Ultimately this is entirely a personal decision but it has reminded me of work my friend Katie and others have been doing. Katie’s done a couple of great blog posts on research into how social use of social networks may affect credibility. The overwhelming consensus appears to be that by tweeting personal things as well as professional things your credibility will be increased rather than decreased. This could be because you feel more connected with someone if you know more about them personally and their for you trust them more. After all you would trust a friend over a person in the street.


Credibility: qualities that someone has that make people believe or trust them
definition from via Katie Piatt

I would say that what I tweet/blog/share depends very much on my mood or where I am rather than any big calculation. I don’t tend to prepare posts in advance and think about them, although maybe sometimes I should! I guess the main issue for me is who will see it? On twitter a lot of my “followers” are fellow librarians so I would post there something entirely library related which my friends would yawn at. On facebook my friends are just that, people I know and have met personally so I would share personal events and things there which people who don’t know me personally probably wouldn’t care about.

My social media
My page

In my blogging though I tended not to be too personal until I did the most personal blog I could have done with my jaw surgery blog . I thought it would be a blog firstly for my close friends and family(especially as I couldn’t talk or have the energy to contact people) and then when complete for other jaw surgery patients to refer to. In fact it took on a whole new lease of life with friends  I hadn’t seen for years and strangers sending me messages to wish me well. I thought it was basically me moaning about how ill I felt but people sent me messages saying how positive it was and how it inspired them in their own lives. Even though I haven’t posted to it for over a month it is still getting 20 -50 visitors a day and interestingly in 5 months it has had over 10,000 visitors. Melon The Librarian has been around for over 18 months and just hit 1000 visitors. My lesson from this experience was that what you think you are writing may well not be what people think they are reading!

There is inevitably a crossover of information between all my social media platforms. This is no different to how if you gathered together everybody who knows me in all walks of life then nobody would have the same view or opinion of me but probably share a general impression. I’m not rigid in where I write or post and do believe that people perceive you better if you are a real person. This is probably a reflection of my personality as I am sociable and open. So amongst some worthy item on work there is a good chance there will be a random post which would mean nothing to anybody but my best friends!


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